Faulty sprinkler leads to extensive flood damage at Winnipeg newcomer organization’s daycare, housing, offices

By | September 11, 2019

Two refugee families are without a home, while other newcomer families relying on daycare services at the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba will be without child-care services for the near future, after flooding caused by a sprinkler system led to heavy damage to parts of the non-profit’s headquarters on Monday afternoon.

Among the support services IRCOM offers for newcomers are child care and affordable transitional housing at its building at 215 Isabel St., where a faulty sprinkler system on the second floor went off Monday, leading to water damage to suites, administrative offices and the daycare area.

Two families in IRCOM’s housing have been relocated to a hotel for now, as the non-profit organization continues to search for better temporary housing, while the daycare will take at least a month to fix, IRCOM’s executive director says.

“At this point ceiling tiles have all been removed, lighting is being replaced —all the walls are being sprayed with an anti-mould spray to prevent any mould from growing. The damage is not little, to say the least,” said Dorota Blumczynska.

“My heart sank because IRCOM Isabel is home to over 250 newly arrived refugees from about 16 countries across the world. Many are children and youth,” she said. ​​

The entire office portion of the building was damaged, forcing IRCOM to shift administrative operations to its 95 Ellen St. location. Three additional vacant suites were also damaged.

IRCOM executive director Dorota Blumczynska says the resiliency of refugees and immigrants following the incident has been remarkable to witness. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

The building and the belongings inside were covered by insurance, but families who rely on child-care services will be hard hit by the temporary loss of the daycare, said Blumczynska​​​​​.

“[It’s] really going to impact families enormously, so we were already yesterday needing to regrettably turn families away who were coming expecting to drop off their children.”

Many of IRCOM’s clients — adults taking English language classes or other training, for example — rely on the organization’s child care, Blumczynska​​​​​ said.

“Child care is one of the most critical services that we can provide to help families really meaningfully access various services through our throughout our community, so this will be hard on them.”

Blumczynska’s perspective on the flooding damage is shaped by the people she works with, she said — refugees who have been facing difficulties most of their lives.

“It’s an important reminder … that catastrophes hit our families with no warning, and they have to stand up and rise above those adversities,” she said.

“So for us, this is a moment of adversity that calls us to stand up and and get through this situation.”

Flood damage at IRCOM could result in the office and daycare being shuttered for up to a month. (Submitted by Dorota Blumcyznska)

Blumczynska said she has once again been amazed by the kinship between families standing together to deal with the setback.

“We are actually there for one another through some of our greatest hardships, and our families have always responded any time that there’s been a loss or a tragedy within our community.”